Last reviewed 5 July 2022

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid announced in May that a ten-year plan for dementia, not just a shorter-term five-year one, was in the making and will be published later in the year. This feature will look at what the Government’s plan is likely to cover and how care providers can prepare to improve services for people with dementia.

The effects of the pandemic

The Alzheimer’s Society studied the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on dementia care and found that it did a lot to amplify existing failures in the system in identifying and supporting people with the disease. It estimated that over 30,000 people failed to receive a diagnosis because of the pandemic and:

  • it was harder for some people to get a timely diagnosis

  • it was more difficult to access memory assessment services.

So Sajid Javid announced that the Government’s longer-term dementia plan will involve:

  • cross-government working to boost £375 million already committed for research into neurodegenerative diseases

  • action on prevention to reduce the up to 40% of dementia considered to be potentially preventable

  • exploring how new technology, evolving science and medicine can help reduce the numbers and severity of dementia

  • ploughing NHS funding into reducing the pandemic backlog so that more timely dementia diagnosis can be achieved.

A dementia plan for social care

While dementia isn’t yet curable, Sajid Javid also said the plan was to focus on supporting people with their specific health and care needs while living with dementia. This is the area where the adult social care sector will expect to see the action.

He said this plan will be driven by the same themes behind its reforms in health and care: the “Four P’s” of prevention, personalisation, performance and people. These aims, especially personalisation, will sound familiar to the care sector.

Work on the plan, which began last summer, is ongoing and has been done in collaboration with a range of organisations and charities including the dementia specialists, the Alzheimer’s Society. Taking a look at their latest campaigns on dementia care in the context of the Government’s announcement sheds light on the probable direction of the upcoming strategy.

Ten-point plan for an integrated dementia care system

The Alzheimer’s Society is working with the Government to get the system right for people affected by dementia. Its campaign includes calls for a care system where:

  • people with dementia are able to live with greater independence, choice and control

  • social care is of the highest quality and better meets individual needs of people affected by dementia

  • social care is easy to access for all people affected by dementia.

The Society believes that by ensuring the new integrated care systems (ICSs) are efficient, which were created by the Health and Care Act 2022, they will be able to sustain and improve dementia diagnosis and enable “the delivery of comprehensive post-diagnostic support within a dementia-friendly community”. The problems and issues for people moving frequently between NHS and social care settings, such as people with dementia, could thus be addressed. Sajid Javid’s speech concurred: “We know that joined up care is better for people with dementia and their families.”

The Alzheimer’s Society’s 10 Point Plan for an Integrated Dementia Care System describes how ICSs and other partnerships can get an efficient integrated system that is “right for people affected by dementia”.

When planning health and care strategies, ICSs are called on to appoint a Dementia Champion, consult with people with dementia and specialist organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society, arrange specialist training for the health and social care workforce so it has the right skills, knowledge and behaviours to support people living with dementia, and build community resilience. This will help to:

  • provide care in the right setting

  • reduce risk

  • sustain and improve diagnosis

  • ensure person-centred support

  • tailor environments.

How can adult social care organisations prepare?

The rallying calls of the UK’s dementia specialists align with the thrust of the Health and Social Care Secretary’s outline of its upcoming dementia plan, and some of their points look like recognisable action for adult social care.

Point 4: Specialist training

Training will be important to improve the workforce’s knowledge and skills in supporting people with dementia and providing good quality evidence-based dementia care. 

Skills for Care recorded that only 44% of care staff have any form of training in dementia. It says social care staff should have tier two training in the Dementia Training Standards Framework to support delivery of more personalised care for people with dementia. The Workforce Development Fund is a means for doing this.

Dementia Champions are staff members with a special interest in dementia and in improving the care and experience of people with dementia. They are trained to provide advice and support to staff, as well as people who use services and their families, and work to help people affected by dementia to live well and to live in their own homes for longer.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme also offers individuals, businesses and organisations the opportunity to learn about what it is like to live with dementia, turn this understanding into action and help to build community resilience.

Point 7: Reduce risk

Work to promote awareness of information resources about risk factors for dementia, and actions people can take to reduce their risk, can be supported by care providers through holding events or displaying materials and publications about dementia.

Point 9: Ensure person-centred support

Effective service integration will enable person-centred support and should work to ensure that, from the point of dementia diagnosis, every person is supported as an individual.

The National Dementia Action Alliance (NDAA) and Alzheimer’s Society have drawn up a set of Dementia Statements and Rights. These are grounded in human rights law and are a proven person-centred approach to commissioning and service design. Be aware of these, as they form a real basis for improving the lives of people with dementia, including those who use care services.

Providers can check their progress in delivering personalised care and support planning with the Progress for Providers Series, which is a range of self-assessments created to help providers deliver more personalised services.

Services can also do much to raise awareness that every person who receives a dementia diagnosis should be offered a named support worker, as is the case with the Alzheimer’s Society “Dementia Advisor” service.

Point 10: Tailor environments

Specialist organisations believe that dementia-friendly health and care environments will improve staff morale and efficiency as well as outcomes for people affected by dementia and carers. 

Creating a dementia-friendly environment is supported by the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN’s) guidance on the implementation of the five SPACE Principles. The principles form an overarching commitment to improve care for people with dementia and their families, and are comprised of:

  • S — staff who are skilled and have time to care

  • P — partnership working with carers

  • A — assessment, early identification of dementia and post diagnostic support

  • C — care and support plans which are person-centred and individual

  • E — environments that are dementia-friendly.

The King’s Fund has also produced a resource to enable hospitals and care home settings to become more dementia-friendly. Design principles in its Enhancing the Healing Environment resource are presented in five sections grouped around the desired outcomes of:

  • easing decision making

  • reducing agitation and distress

  • encouraging independence and social interaction

  • promoting safety

  • enabling activities of daily living.

Listed in each section is a series of elements known to support, encourage and enable people with dementia in unfamiliar buildings.

The Alzheimer’s Society offers an audit, followed by a report and recommendations for creating a positive environment for people with dementia, and its guidance on dementia-friendly signage is a practical tool to support care settings implement effective improvements for people with dementia.

Further information